The sales from Friday to Tuesday were disclosed in a series of filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Tuesday night. They mark the first sale of Tesla shares by Musk since April, when he sold 9.6 million shares, raising $8.5 billion in that time.
Musk’s filings did not disclose the reason for the stock sale. But after someone on Twitter asked him if he was done selling Tesla stock, he replied, “Yes,” and then pointed to the possibility of being forced to buy Twitter as the reason for this latest sale.
“In the (hopefully unlikely) event that Twitter forces this deal to end *and* some equity partners don’t come through, it’s important to avoid a distressed sale of Tesla stock,” he said in his chirping
But at that point he sold Tesla (TSLA)
shares in April, he tweeted
“No further TSLA sales are planned after today.”
When someone else asked on Twitter Tuesday if he would buy back Tesla stock if the Twitter deal doesn’t close, he replied, “Yes.”
Tesla shares have lost nearly 20% of their value so far this year, although they have risen 14% since reporting earnings in late July.
“This is the last thing Tesla investors wanted to see,” said Daniel Ives, technical analyst for Wedbush Securities. “The biggest fear has been that Musk will sell more shares, and that’s what just happened. It’s a short-term gut punch. There’s no explanation, and it adds to the uncertainty.”
Musk has previously sold Tesla shares primarily when he needed to raise money to pay taxes on the exercise of options that were due to expire. The sale of shares in April shortly after the Twitter deal was reached was the first significant sale of Tesla stock by Musk for reasons other than a looming tax bill.
Musk received an average price of $869 per share for the shares he sold in recent days. That’s down from an average price of $883 a share on his Tesla sale in April, and well below the average of $1,046 he received when he sold 15.7 million shares late last year. That sale was to cover an expected record personal income tax bill he faced as a result of exercising options that were set to expire.
Even with the latest share sales, Musk owns 155 million shares of Tesla, and has options to buy nearly 100 million more at a fraction of today’s prices. The shares he owns, combined with the options he has to buy other shares, give him control of about 20% of Tesla’s outstanding shares. And the 7.9 million shares he just sold represent less than 3% of the stock and options he holds.